Paul Whelan's family still advocating for his release from Russia

Paul Whelan was arrested in 2018 on espionage charges and is labeled wrongfully detained.
Posted at 7:25 PM, Apr 18, 2023

As Wall Street Journal Reporter Evan Gershkovich made his first appearance in a Russian courtroom, another American who suffered the same fate nearly 1,600 days ago feels he's no closer to freedom. 

Paul Whelan was arrested in 2018 on espionage charges and is labeled wrongfully detained. He told his family he feels abandoned by the U.S. government and leaders from his home state of Michigan. To that end, his brother David told ABC News their sister Elizabeth is going to take a step back from communication with the state department because they believe it's a waste of time. 

"She's finding there aren't fruitful outcomes to the discussions they've been having," David Whelan said. 

The family is concerned Gershkovich's case will take priority over Paul's. They worry cases with notoriety get priority, whether it's a journalist, a basketball star or a young man. 

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In December, when Brittney Griner was released in a prisoner swap, Whelan said, "I was arrested for a crime that never occurred. I'm happy that Brittney is going home today, and that Trevor went home when he did but I don't understand why I'm still here. I have to say I am greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release." 

President Joe Biden said at the time the Russian government treated Paul's case different than Britney's for "totally illegitimate reasons." 

But things seem to be getting worse. David Whelan told ABC News in a letter "Paul seems rattled like never before, understandably apprehensive that the U.S. government will choose not to bring him home again." 

The White House said in a statement it has put forth a "serious proposal to Russia" and that "bringing Paul home is important to the president." 

The U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, who was present at Tuesday's hearing for Gershkovich, included Whelan in her calls for his release. 

"We also call for the immediate release of Paul Whelan. Paul has been held more than four years in Russia. Both men deserve to go home to their families now," Tracy said. 

Whelan's sentiments are likely the same as they were four months ago. 

"My bags are packed, I'm ready to go home. I just need an airplane to come and get me," he said.